PAX East - First Look: Frank and Drake
One of my favorite games from PAX East is the visual novel, Frank and Drake. It’s visually stunning, has an interesting story, and incorporates puzzles in a way that I haven’t seen in other games in the genre. The demo consisted of one chapter, but it hooked me, and I can’t wait to play more.
The story revolves around two roommates, Frank and Drake. Frank sees visions and is afraid he’s losing his mind. Drake is allergic to sunlight and can’t go out during the day. Both characters are thrown together into a mystery that they are trying to solve, leaving notes for each other on the fridge to describe what they experienced that day. You play as Frank and Drake, gathering clues to understand what’s happening. And while the game doesn’t make it too obvious, in essence, Frank is Frankenstein, and Drake is Dracula.
Besides a good story, the incorporation of gaming mechanics draws me into a visual novel. The puzzles in Frank and Drake are not only interesting from a storytelling perspective, but they are vastly diverse. For example, in Frank’s storyline, he must find a key to open a file cabinet. A puzzle lock box stores the key; solving it is no easy matter. In Drake’s story, he needs to feed to keep his energy up, so he sneaks into a zoo to get to the pig pen to draw blood to feast. Doing so requires navigating a board, avoiding patrolling guards, and trying not to wake up the animals. Both puzzles are cleverly done and took me a while to figure out.
The most impressive feature is the art, all done through rotoscope animation. The animation could have been done differently and easier, but the appeal is how wonderful it looks and certainly leans into the graphic novel aspect. Watching Frank and Drake walk is like playing with a flip book; the animation is crisp, clean, and mesmerizing. I’m not sure I’ve seen this type of animation done in a game before, probably because it’s so labor-intensive. One of the neat gifts I got from Chorus Worldwide Games is a flip book of Frank and Drake; one side is Frank, and the other is Drake.
If you’re a fan of visual novels or puzzle games, add Frank and Drake to your wishlist on Steam. I haven’t seen a release date yet; hopefully, we will get the game sometime this year. I can’t wait to play more.